When it was released last year, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed received slightly different reactions from two different factions of people. For game reviewers, the final game wasn't as exciting as they expected after playing preview builds during the game's development cycle. The result was a conglomerate of game scores that showed the product was not terrible but also not the definitive Star Wars game. For the gaming public, however, the title was seen in a more positive light, as evidenced by the six million units sold and the numerous demo downloads. One year has passed, and while most publishers would re-release the game as part of a Greatest Hits/Platinum Hits line, LucasArts decided to do something different. Following the recent trend set by a few other major publishers, the company has decided to repackage and republish the game for the public. The result is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed — Ultimate Sith Edition, and while there is a decent amount of extra content here, it doesn't really change the overall game very much.
For those who didn't try out the original title last year, the game plays out like one large "what if" scenario. Set between Episode III and Episode IV, you play as Starkiller, a secret apprentice to Darth Vader. Your primary mission is to eliminate the last remaining Jedis in the galaxy, but because the Empire has no knowledge of your existence, you end up fighting everyone you are fighting for and against. Ultimately, you will be tested and asked to perform one more task that can either expose your true light or dark side.
The game comes on two discs, and all of the aforementioned content — as all of the downloadable costumes — is contained in the first disc. The second disc contains those same costumes as well as three bonus missions. The first two, Jedi Temple and Tatooine, were previously available as downloadable content while the third, Hoth, is exclusive to this package. Jedi Temple takes place in the middle of the main game's story, where Starkiller goes to the Jedi Temple ruins to learn more about his heritage. Tatooine assumes you've chosen one particular ending to the main game as you attempt to rewrite Episode IV by having Starkiller, now the Emperor's apprentice, go to the desert planet to retrieve the droids with the stolen Death Star plans. Finally, Hoth has you rewriting Episode V by letting Starkiller infiltrate the Rebel base on the frozen tundras of the planet.
There are a few things that make the game a joy to play through, and the most obvious thing is the use of the Force powers. You'll still want to power them up in order to make them reach their full potential, but even at their weakest, it's still fun to move objects with the Force or shock people with lightning. The same goes for throwing your lightsaber like a boomerang or being able to push everyone away when you use your radial Force push. If you always dreamed of using the powers that you saw in the movies, this game will solidify that notion for you. Another element that makes this an exciting game to play is the fighting. Like the fights seen in the prequel trilogy, lightsaber combat is a fast and furious affair. Strikes are quick, and combos are numerous, and even though the lightsaber is a dangerous weapon, combining that with your Force powers makes for an even more dangerous player. Seeing a lightsaber charged with Force lightning, for example, will really give you the feeling that you are the most powerful person out there.
While all of The Force Unleashed's previously discussed positives are still relative in the Ultimate Sith Edition, the same can also be said for the few negatives. For starters, some of the lesser enemies seem to be too powerful for their own good. This complaint mostly lies with enemies who have flamethrowers or similar types of weaponry that significantly drain your health bar. Without any way to break free once you get hit by these weapons, you'll get used to replaying the same scene over and over again. Another gameplay-related issue has to do with boss fights. For the most part, they aren't as exciting as one would think. A mix of Force lightning and lightsaber combos seems to be all you need to beat any boss, making those battles tedious ones instead of ones you relish after fighting wave after wave of minions. There are times when the AI just feels like it breaks too often. Don't be surprised if you come across an enemy who stays still for a significant amount of time after being thrown or hit, or enemies who simply refuse to do anything to prevent from being attacked. Finally, the game sports some really long load times. Worse yet, those long load times seem to be everywhere and pop up when you want to do anything. Every level loads for a good 30 seconds while going to menus takes up to 10 seconds to load. Aside from doing the system's optional HDD install, you have to hope that you never need to level up or change costumes during a fight lest you suffer significant periods of waiting instead of playing.
As for the extra content, the perceived value of said content will be entirely dependent on which version of the overall game story will interest you the most. The Jedi Temple level is actually the standout of the bunch since you have a healthy amount of combat and puzzles to deal with. It may not be a long level and the beginning will cause some players to quit in disgust due to the overwhelming odds, but it is quite a bit of fun. The same can't be said for the Tatooine level, which does a good job of bringing in familiar set pieces and situations from Episode IV but is too linear since it is a pure combat level. There are a few boss fights here with some pretty significant characters, but they suffer from the same problems as the main game. Hoth, the level exclusive to this package, is actually the worst of the three bonus levels since it feels almost like a rehash of Tatooine. The number of boss encounters is the same, and even the ending is played out in a similar fashion. One thing that all three levels do share is length. At most, it'll take the average player a half hour to finish each level. When they were originally offered as DLC, the price would be too steep in relation to level length to even consider giving them a look. As part of a package, though, they still feel too short, and only Achievement hounds will bother playing through them again, but at least you don't feel like you got cheated out of some hard-earned cash.
The controls are, for the most part, functional. The left thumbstick moves your character while the right thumbstick moves the camera and directs Force-grabbed objects and people. The A button jumps, and the X button slashes. Force powers are handled by the Y button, B button, left bumper and right trigger. The left trigger blocks and, in conjunction with the face buttons, activates more Force-related moves while the right bumper locks on to the nearest enemy or movable object. As complicated as it sounds on paper, the system is quite easy to get into, especially for people who happened to play the last-generation game Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, since the control scheme is almost the same. The real issues with the controls are with the camera and Force grab. Even though you have lock-on and manual camera, there are times when it gets obscured badly by environmental objects or gets too close to Starkiller as he's being attacked. Force grab also gets hindered by the controls, since it never seems to activate on an object unless you are a certain distance away from it. This prevents the user from doing anything cool with the power, aside from tossing locked-on objects or people.
Graphically, Ultimate Sith Edition is serviceable with a few bright spots here and there. The character models represent one of those bright spots, as they look great. Smaller enemies, like the Storm Troopers and various Jedi bosses, look good; it becomes more impressive when you see a multitude of them on-screen without the game slowing down to accommodate them. The most impressive character models remain Starkiller and the various available costumes, which all sport a significant amount of detail. Close up or far away, the costumes really show off the power of the game's graphics.
The environments, however, don't carry that same consistency. Some of the levels, like the Jedi Temple, look great due to the high-polygon architecture and minute details while others, like Hoth, look bland and uninspired. As for the particle effects, most of them look good, but things like lightsaber slashes on unbreakable objects tend to not look as great, thanks to them either appearing partially or not at all when objects are hit. Other graphical issues, such as overused Havok physics on some debris and jumping textures, also mar the experience though those flaws don't occur too often.
Sound was always something that has been a bright spot for the Star Wars games, and Ultimate Sith Edition is no exception. The iconic sound effects are still a delight to hear. Laser blasts, lightsaber swipes and explosions are pitch-perfect replications of their film counterparts and come through the speakers nicely, especially in Dolby Digital. The music still contains the legendary John Williams theme song that everyone knows, but the rest of the score matches up nicely to that tune, evoking the same emotions and vibe as the original film scores. As for the voices, they aren't too bad at all. Most of them are done for original characters, and their delivery is quite good. The same can be said for the stand-ins to some of the more famous film characters, like Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who not only do a good job delivering their lines but also do well at impersonating the original film voices. There are a few times when the delivery feels forced and the lines seem pretty bad, such as Luke Skywalker's fight in the Hoth level, but overall, the game fares well in this category.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is still a slightly above-average game a year after it was originally released. Even though there are a few problems that players will have to deal with, the combat is good, and the use of some of the cooler Force powers in the Star Wars universe are still fun to play with. The Ultimate Sith Edition may have all of the DLC and one extra level, but a good chunk of the extras doesn't add that much to the overall experience. If you've been meaning to pick up the game after all this time, you'd be saving money if you pick up this one since the price of a used version, coupled with DLC, will cost more than this package at retail. If you already picked up the original game a year ago, though, your best bet would be to rent this if you're interested in extending one branch of the story line.
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